Host with the most
Catherine De Orio (JD ’01) went from Loyola's law school to hosting the popular Chicago restaurant review show Check, Please!
In 2013, Catherine De Orio (JD '01) outshined hundreds of hopefuls to be cast as the new host of the restaurant review show Check, Please! The WTTW show sees De Orio moderate a rotating panel of reviewers who visit local Chicago eateries.
De Orio comes from a family of doctors and lawyers—her father, Anthony De Orio (BS '67, MD '71), and brother, Joseph (MD '99), are both graduates of Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine—but she decided to take a different path after graduating from law school. Here she talks about how her love of cooking led her to discover her dream job.
How is your new job going?
It’s a dream job. I’ve been working toward something like this. To see my dream become a reality—well, I have to pinch myself.
Why did you decide to leave law?
After law school—which I went to in order to work within the arts—I did nonprofit work with artists, settling things like licensing or tenants’ issues. Then I worked at a small litigation firm in Chicago. It didn’t quite fit.
When I wasn’t at work as a lawyer, I threw parties. I did a tiki party and turned my loft into a tiki hut. There were fish in the bathtub, I covered the bar in raffia, and I sourced real vintage tiki glasses. I served Polynesian food. These creative parties and cooking for my friends were what really made me happy.
There were a few things I loved about working in law—you have a skill set that can help people. Sometimes you can change lives. But I had one of those moments where I thought, “Is this what my life is going to be?” My heart was in cooking, and so I decided on culinary school.
What was that experience like?
That was an interesting time. I kept my job at the firm and had to do night and weekend school (at Kendall College). I’d fly out the door from work to get to my car and change into my chef’s whites at stoplights. I wouldn’t get home until midnight.
How did you get involved in television?
I got recruited as a product spokesperson. I started doing television appearances around town, then I started traveling, and that spiraled. I’d do cooking demos, recipe development, things along the lines of “What else you can do with cheesecake?” I did food styling for catalogs. I took everything I could, even unpaid jobs. Over time, that built my network, and I could focus on what I liked, writing restaurant columns, and so on.
Was it hard to adjust to being on camera?
Practicing law was actually a great background for this—doing a Rachael Ray segment isn’t that different from doing your opening and closing in front of a judge. The first time I went in front of a judge, my leg was shaking like a jackrabbit. But I got used to it over time.
What would you choose for your last meal?
I’d want things that remind me of my family. My grandmother’s gravy over bucatini. My mom’s red velvet cupcakes.
Do you have any regrets?
I believe if you don’t try to change your situation, you lose your right to complain about it. To anyone considering a career change, I say, have the courage to do it. You have the power to change your life, and not in a new-agey way. It’s hard work, but I never regret it. I love it.